Archive for the Best Jazz Albums of 2012 Category

CurtJazz’s Best Jazz Albums of 2012 – The Complete List

Posted in Best Jazz Albums of 2012, The Jazz Continues... with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 28, 2012 by curtjazz

To wrap up our discussion about our favorite jazz albums of 2012, we’ve brought everything mentioned in the three prior posts together into one comprehensive list. The link in each album title will take you to the album’s page on Amazon.com, if you’re interested in buying or downloading it.

CurtJazz’s Best Jazz of 2012 – The Complete List

In Alphabetical Order by Album Title

Album Title

Artist(s) Label
Accelerando Vijay Iyer ACT
Angelic Warrior Tia Fuller Mack Avenue
Be Good Gregory Porter Motéma
Be Still Dave Douglas Greenleaf
Black Radio Robert Glasper Experiment Blue Note
Blue Moon Ahmad Jamal Jazz Village
Claroscuro Anat Cohen Anzic
Don’t Look Back Mary Stallings HighNote
Flip The Script Orrin Evans Posi-tone
Four MFs Playin’ Tunes Branford Marsalis Marsalis Music
Girl Talk Kate McGarry Palmetto
Heritage Lionel Loueke Blue Note
House of Legends Courtney Pine Destin-E
I Carry Your Heart (Alexis Cole Sings Pepper Adams) Alexis Cole Motéma
Lyrical – Volume 1 Milton Suggs Skiptone
Mary Lou Williams: The Next 100 Years Virginia Mayhew Renma
The Only Son of One Wayne Escoffery Sunnyside
Prisoner of Love Marianne Solivan Hipnotic
Seeds From the Underground Kenny Garrett Mack Avenue
Triveni II Avishai (Trumpet) Cohen Anzic
     
A FEW MORE GOOD THINGS    
Colombe David Reinhardt Trio 101 Distribution
Echoes of Indiana Avenue (Best Historical Album) Wes Montgomery Resonance
Hot House Chick Corea and Gary Burton Concord
Lifesize Mirror Monét Entertainment One
Radio Music Society Esperanza Spalding Heads-Up / Concord
     
2011 Album Revisited    
Keep It Movin’ Shimrit Shoshan

Self-Release / CD Baby

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CurtJazz’s Best Jazz Albums of 2012 – A Few More Good Things…

Posted in Best Jazz Albums of 2012, The Jazz Continues... with tags , , , , , , on December 26, 2012 by curtjazz

To wrap up 2012, I have a few more discs released this year that were not part of the first twenty, but are worth your time and listening attention. They are:

Colombe – David Reinhardt Trio (101 Distribution)

david reinhardtThe 26-year-old grandson of the legendary guitarist Django Reinhardt is a very good guitarist in his own right. Unlike his grandfather, David is focused on Bop and Soul-Jazz. Colombe, his first album released in the U.S., is quite impressive. We’re looking forward to hearing more.

wes montgomeryEchoes of Indiana Avenue – Wes Montgomery (Resonance)

2012’s best historical album was a real find. These are recordings of Wes in 1957-58, in the studio and in Indianapolis clubs, when he was struggling to be heard. These sides prove that he was already near the top of his game. Kudos to Resonance Records, not only for the solid remastering but also for the terrific packaging, which includes great photos and interviews.

 corea and burtonHot House – Chick Corea and Gary Burton (Concord)

Forty years after their landmark duet album, Crystal Silence, and after numerous other collaborations with groups of various sizes, Corea and Burton are back to basics on this album of duets. They are 71 and 69 respectively, but they haven’t lost a step as they alternately challenge and complement each other. There was nothing boring about this reunion.

Lifesize Mirror – Monét (Entertainment One)

monet lifesize mirrorR&B, Jazz, and Neo-Soul create a gorgeous mosaic on this album by this criminally underheard flutist/vocalist/educator/actress. Monét’s sound on flute is reminiscent of Bobbi Humphrey, but this young lady brings much more to the musical table than her famed predecessor.  The music here is way too intelligent and creative to be pigeonholed as “smooth jazz”, so we’ll just call it a thinking person’s groove.

Radio Music Society – Esperanza Spalding (Heads-Up)

esperanzaSpeaking of gifted ladies who refuse to be pigeonholed, Ms. Spalding terrified many hardcore jazz types with her decidedly pop based new album, her first since her shocking Best New Artist win at the 2011 Grammys®.  When you get past all the “jazz forsaking” arguments that have been made, what you have left is an eclectic (Jack DeJohnnette, Joe Lovano and Q-Tip all make guest appearances) and delightful album of great music by a prodigiously gifted young woman who is going to get it done her own way, jazz police be damned. You go girl!

A 2011 Album Revisited

Keep it Movin’ – Shimrit Shoshan (Self Released)

Shimrit-Shoshan-Keep-It-MovinThough she was far from well-known, even in the jazz world, a shockwave went through our little community when it was reported that Shimrit Shoshan had died on August 19, 2012, of cardiac arrest, at age 29. The Israeli born pianist had released her first album in 2011 and it showed that she had a world of promise and nothing but good things ahead of her.

I first became aware of her via an article in Jazz Times, which discussed the variety of worlds that the young woman was involved in to support her budding musical career. Due in large part to her striking good looks, she found work as a backup dancer in music videos and as model/muse for a New York based fashion designer. She also sold gems in the diamond district and taught music to underprivileged kids in Harlem. Her story fascinated me, so I tracked down a copy of her album that same day. I found her playing to very impressive and complex and her solos were challenging; she was no dilettante.

I began to play her album on the station and had some brief correspondence with Ms. Shoshan via Twitter.  I kept tabs on her career and I was looking forward to seeing what was next.

Unfortunately, that encouraging beginning turned out to also be a tragically frustrating coda. So we look back at Shimrit Shoshan’s Keep It Movin’. If you are unfamiliar with this disc, check it out. You’re likely to experience the same mixed emotions that I now feel.

That will wrap it up for our Best Jazz of 2012 list. Tracks from all 25 of these albums can be heard daily on Curt’s Café Noir, from noon – 5 pm (ET), daily, starting on December 27, 2012 and continuing into January 2013.

We will also publish another post after this one which will include the names of each album and a link to where they can be purchased. Because if jazz is to survive, we have all got to do our part by buying the music that we love that is made by living artists.

Have a Jazzy New Year. Until the next time, the jazz continues…

CurtJazz’s Best Jazz Albums of 2012 – Part II

Posted in Best Jazz Albums of 2012, The Jazz Continues... with tags , , , , , , , , , on December 23, 2012 by curtjazz

Here’s Part II of the list of our favorite jazz albums of 2012. Like Part I, these are in alphabetical order, by album title:

Girl Talk – Kate McGarry (Palmetto)

kate mcgarryComing from the same musical place as Gretchen Parlato and to a lesser extent, Norah Jones, Ms. McGarry has determinedly carved out her own niche as a vocalist.  Her appealing voice and fun way with a lyric made me a fan when I first heard her on her 2007 disc, Target. Now with Girl Talk, she has fulfilled the mature promise that some of her previous works hinted at. Backed by a terrific band which includes the incomparable Gary Versace on organ and piano, her hubby, Keith Ganz on guitars, bassist Reuben Rogers and drummer Clarence Penn, this album is billed as Ms. McGarry’s tribute to some of her vocal role models, which is ironic, because I find this to be her most individual work to date.

Heritage – Lionel Loueke (Blue Note)

Lionel Loueke

Another highly anticipated disc that delivered the goods, Heritage brought together the guitarist from Benin, with his label mate Robert Glasper as producer. This brought about a change in a number of ways – gone was the nylon string acoustic guitar that had so defined Loueke’s sound in the past. In its place were electric guitars and a steel string acoustic. Glasper also brought along his “Experiment” band members, Derek Hodge on bass and Mark Guiliana on drums. The resulting sound added an exciting tension to Loueke’s sound between Loueke’s serene guitar and Yoruba vocalizing and the electric funk elements added by Mr. Glasper and company. That tension produced many compelling musical moments, such as the haunting “Tribal Dance”, which has made it impossible to me to take this disc out of my CD changer.

House of Legends – Courtney Pine (Destin-E)

Courtney PineCourtney Pine first caught the attention of the jazz world with his 1986 release Journey to the Urge WithinIt hit right in the midst of the “Young Lions” craze of the ‘80’s/’90’s. The press quickly dubbed Mr. Pine “The New Coltrane”; a daunting title to hang on anyone. Mr. Pine confounded those who labeled him by going off wherever his musical muse took him. Now in 2012, the muse takes the London native to House of Legends, on which he embraces his Jamaican roots more than on any project of his 25 year career. It’s a joyous album, from beginning to end, with Mr. Pine, who appears only soprano, blowing terrific lines over meringue, ska, calypso and mento rhythms. Imagine if Sonny Rollins had taken his calypso flirtations to their fullest extent and you’ll get the idea. This album put a smile on my face. 

I Carry Your Heart – Alexis Cole (Motéma)

alexis cole

That Pepper Adams was one of the great baritone saxophone players in jazz is indisputable. However the fact that he was a prolific composer has gone virtually unnoticed.  Jazz historian Gary Carner set out to right that wrong in conjunction with Motéma Records. The result is a monumental five-volume set that celebrates Adams, the composer. For Volume 5, Carner worked with poet Barry Wallenstein, who added lyrics to Adams seven ballads. They then engaged Alexis Cole, a marvelous, if underheard vocalist to sing these songs. I Carry Your Heart, the resulting album, is excellent in every way. Adams’ music is beautiful, Wallenstein’s lyrics fit the tunes like a glove and Ms. Cole gives delivers the finest performances that I’ve heard from her to date. The band that backs this session is also outstanding, with special kudos going to Eric Alexander and Pat LaBarbera, who are their usual exceptional selves on the tenor.

Lyrical – Vol. 1 – Milton Suggs (Skiptone)

Milton Suggs

I’ve spent much of the last few years lamenting the lack of promising new male jazz vocal talent. I’ve even discussed the issue with Jon Hendricks when I interviewed him a few years back. His answer was quite interesting, but too long to discuss here. Now suddenly, in the last few years, I’ve seen binders full of talented male vocalists make themselves known; Ori Dagan, Sachal Vasandani, José James and Mr. Milton Suggs. Suggs, Chicago born and now NYC based, has perhaps kept the lowest profile of the four, but he has released the most impressive recent album. On Lyrical, Vol. 1, Mr. Suggs wraps his big baritone voice around lyrics that he has written, to some well-known (“Ceora”, “Footprints”) and not so well-known (Roy Hargrove’s “Joy Is Sorrow Unmasked”) compositions. Suggs takes a few risks, such as overdubbing himself as his own background vocalist, which works very well most of the time. But the hits far outweigh the misses. Suggs is an excellent vocalist and a very good lyricist. The bottom line is that I have not stopped listening to this album since it arrived in my mailbox and that’s what sets it apart from the rest.

Mary Lou Williams: The Next 100 Years – Virginia Mayhew (Renma)

virginia mayhew

The legendary pianist Mary Lou Williams would have turned 100 in 2010. There have been a number of tributes to her over the past few years. This one by tenor saxophonist Virginia Mayhew is IMO, the most thorough and the most musically impressive. Ms. Mayhew did exhaustive research. She was given full access to the Mary Lou Williams Collection at the Rutgers Institute of Jazz Studies. She then listened to over 200 of Ms. Williams’ compositions before choosing her favorites and beginning her arrangements. What makes this album so strong is that Ms. Mayhew clearly set out to write modern, energetic arrangements and avoid staid recreations. The music here sounds as exciting as if were written last week, instead of seventy years ago, as is the case in a few instances. Ms. Mayhew has a big expressive tone and she attacks her solos with gusto. She also has recruited a couple of partners who are every bit her equal in trombonist Wycliffe Gordon and guitarist Ed Cherry. Though Mary Lou Williams passed away over thirty years ago, Mayhew and company make her music live.

The Only Son of One – Wayne Escoffery (Sunnyside)

wayne escoffery

Wayne Escoffery is one of the busiest tenor saxophonists in New York. Besides his work with Tom Harrell, Ben Riley, Eric Reed and the LCJO, he also still records some fine sets as a leader, of which The Only Son of One, is certainly one of the best. On this album, Mr. Escoffery tells a bit of his own story. He was born in a tough section of London. His mother left his abusive, Jamaican-born father and fled to the U.S. when Wayne, their only child, was eight.  They arrived in the States with nothing and got by for many years on their wits and determination.  The titles of the songs tell the story of his upbringing, the tough times, his spirituality and how they all shaped Wayne. His playing is passionate and captivating. Though he still shows traces of Joe Henderson and Wayne Shorter in his playing, he has grown to a point his own style is in the forefront and it is quite impressive.

Prisoner of Love – Marianne Solivan (Hipnotic)

marianne solivan

I was listening to Prisoner of Love for the first time. About halfway through I muttered to myself “Where did this woman come from? How could I have missed her?” The Queens, NY native seems to have come out of nowhere and she has captured many an ear. Some have compared Marianne Solivan to Geri Southern and Julie London. I can agree with that only in regards to the timbre of her voice, for even on her ballads, Ms. Solivan swings harder than either of those two legendary chanteuses. On this album, produced by trumpeter Jeremy Pelt, Ms. Solivan and Mr. Pelt display excellent judgment by surrounding the singer with some of the best musicians on the East Coast (Peter Bernstein, Christian McBride, Xavier Davis, et al) and selecting a standard repertoire that fits her voice like a glove. Among many highlights are Solivan’s two duets with McBride, a situation that could crush a lesser talent. But on “All or Nothing at All” and “Day Dream”, Ms. Solivan rises to the occasion and not only holds her own, but shines with the confidence of a star, which she very well may be.

Seeds from the Underground – Kenny Garrett (Mack Avenue)

kenny garrett

In a career that has spanned fifteen solo albums over three decades, Kenny Garrett has been all over the musical map, moving from big band, to hard bop to a stint with Miles, to being a first call sideman and creator of a musical oeuvre that has rarely remained in the same place for too long. It’s no surprise then, that Mr. Garrett has had a considerable number of musical influences.  On Seeds from the Underground, he pays homage to those who have planted the musical seeds that have aided his development into one of the most formidable artists of his generation.  Mr. Garrett put a lot of himself, artistically and personally, into this album and that effort has paid off with impressive results. Seeds from the Underground is the finest album that Kenny Garrett has released in the 21st Century and is one of the best of his career.

Triveni II – Avishai Cohen [Trumpet] – (Anzic)

avishai cohen

Avishai Cohen’s last album as a leader, Introducing Triveni, made our list last year as the album that I had missed in 2010. When I heard that at the same two-day session as Introducing Triveni, enough music for a second album was recorded and that it was going to be released, I was determined not to miss this one. I’m pleased to report that Triveni II is not an album of outtakes. It is every bit as good as its predecessor. Born and raised in Tel-Aviv, Mr. Cohen, the brother of Anat Cohen, has made a name for himself in jazz despite having a well-known sister and having the same name as another Israeli jazz musician, which is why “trumpet” is often included as a part of his name. This session, which again features bassist Omer Avital and drummer Nasheet Waits, is another tour de force, where the trumpeter seems to relish the freedom of having no other melody instrument in the group. It’s a thrilling and creative set, one that I predict many serious young trumpeters will try to emulate.

Though this concludes our top twenty, there is still a bit more ahead. Our next post will include a handful of very good albums that should also be heard, a terrific historical album and our “missed” album from 2011, which this year isn’t so much missed as it is poignantly revisited.

The music from all twenty “Best of” albums and the additional discs, can be heard on our internet station Curt’s Café Noir, starting on December 27, 2012 and continuing through January 2013.  As always, agreement and disagreement is welcome in the comments section. I approve them all, except spam and naked self promotion.

Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Glorious Kwanza and Happy New Year to all – until the next time – The Jazz Continues!

CurtJazz’s Best Jazz Albums of 2012 – Part I

Posted in Best Jazz Albums of 2012, The Jazz Continues... with tags , , , , , , , , , , on December 20, 2012 by curtjazz

In another year in which another uninformed, self-important magazine writer chose to declare it dead, jazz took greater advantage than ever of social media and the internet to declare that writer like, so many who came before him, to be full of hot air. As young artists took advantages of their musical roots and influences, I saw things that made this writer very hopeful about the future of this music:  Young people came out in throngs, fist pumping and dancing at Robert Glasper’s Atlanta Jazz Festival appearance. Esperanza Spalding, Tia Fuller and Anat Cohen, released albums that demonstrated the growing power of women instrumentalists. And some veterans proved that they still “got game”.

So here in alphabetical order, are the first ten on my list of my favorite jazz albums that were released in 2012. Since I didn’t get to publish a midterm list this year, there will be another ten coming in the next post, plus a few others that are also worthy of more than several listens.

Accelerando – Vijay Iyer (ACT)

accelerando

This is Mr. Iyer’s third appearance on our list in the last four years. The pianist is releasing music on an album per year basis and each year, he manages to top his previous offering with an approach that never covers the same ground twice. On Accelerando, Iyer is back with his trio mates from 2009’s Historicity, bassist Stephan Crump and drummer Marcus Gilmore and as on that now classic album, the trio delivers a mix of intricate original compositions with reworkings of little heard jazz and pop tunes. Each is fired up by Crump and Gilmore’s unshakable rhythms, which are now showing a touch of a hip-hop influence. Anyway it comes at you, Vijay Iyer has done it again and I can’t wait to see what 2013 brings.

Angelic Warrior – Tia Fuller (Mack Avenue)

tia fuller

Still known mostly for her work as the saxophonist in Beyonce’s touring band, Ms. Fuller has come home again to produce another dynamite straight ahead jazz album. Angelic Warrior leaps out of the gate with the fiery “Royston Rumble” and doesn’t let go until “Ode to Be”, the closing outro. Ms. Fuller has developed into a strong composer, as proven by “Ralphie’s Groove” and “Tailor Made” and she is also an exciting and creative soloist, who makes an uptempo medley of “So In Love” and “All of You” work like a new Rolex.  Wake up and take notice jazz world, Tia Fuller is the real deal.

Be Good – Gregory Porter (Motéma)

gregory porter

The best new hope for male jazz singers to come along in at least a decade knocked aside any thought of a sophomore jinx on this disc, which also drew some attention in the R&B/Pop idioms. It’s easy to see why. Porter has a voice that is equal parts Donny Hathaway and Al Jarreau and as a writer, he has learned how to write an irresistible hook.  Porter has married the best of jazz and soul singing by taking the best of both worlds and bringing them together in beautiful harmony. Don’t miss his towering take on “Work Song”, the melodic “When Did You Learn” and the closer, an a cappella version of “God Bless The Child”.

 Be Still – Dave Douglas (Greenleaf Music)

dave douglas

Be Still is another in a long line of brilliant and original works by Mr. Douglas. This album was born out of the hymns that Douglas’ mother requested him to play at her memorial service. After meeting Aoife O’Donovan, an ethereally voiced young singer, with bluegrass roots, Douglas began to envision an album of these hymns as a kind of folk-jazz music. The result is an album of remarkable intimacy, Ms. O’Donovan, Mr. Douglas and a quartet of up and coming young jazz stars (Jon Irabagon, Matt Mitchell, Linda Oh and Rudy Royston) create works that are starkly beautiful. Be Still manages to be reflective, even moody but never maudlin. I’ve always been someone who looks to find God in places that others don’t look. I found Him in the sincerity of the performances on this album.

Black Radio – Robert Glasper Experiment (Blue Note)

robert-glasper

This album arrived this spring on the wings of massive hype. And it delivered. Though he has amassed unquestionable credentials in the mainstream realm, Mr. Glasper has strong hip-hop roots, as you might expect from an artist of his age (34). What he has done here is taken what was hinted at on the second half of his last album, Double Booked, to its logical conclusion, with a mixture of jazz, hip-hop, R&B, neo-soul and rock. What we get is something that can’t be pigeonholed into any genre but has reached fans of many ages and musical preferences. With help from guest stars from across the musical universe, Black Radio gives us a peek at where the next generation wants to take what we called jazz. I suggest that we “Old Schoolers” get on board and enjoy the ride.

Blue Moon – Ahmad Jamal (Jazz Village)

ahmad jamal

I’ll be damned! At 81, the artist formerly known as Fritz, a man who Miles Davis called one of his greatest influences, has turned in his finest album in at least four decades.  The tracks are mostly from the Great American Songbook or jazz standards, but this is by no means a tired romp through familiar territory. What has happened is the veteran rhythm section of drummer Herlin Riley, bassist Reginald Veal and percussionist Manolo Badrena, light a percussive fire under Mr. Jamal that has clearly inspired his artistry. Their 10 minute deconstruction of “Blue Moon” will compel you to listen to it repeatedly. For a real treat, listen to Black Radio and this album back to back. You’ll realize that the generations are not that far apart at all.

Claroscuro – Anat Cohen (Anzic)

anat cohen

IMO, the finest clarinetist in jazz today, Anat Cohen takes us on a joyously eclectic stylistic tour. Through West Africa, to Brazil to swing to bop, Ms. Cohen covers a tremendous amount of ground. With fine guest spots from the great Paquito D’Rivera (a killer clarinet duet on Artie Shaw’s “Nightmare”) and a fun loving Wycliffe Gordon (on trombone and vocals), this disc did not lose my interest for one second.  And for those like me, who are big fans of Ms. Cohen’s tenor sax work, she brings the proceedings to a nice close with a rich version of Abdullah Ibrahim’s “The Wedding”. In Spanish, one of the definitions of Claroscuro is “a contrast of light and shadows”. Now knowing that, I can’t think of a better title for this disc.

 

Don’t Look Back – Mary Stallings (HighNote)

mary stallings

Mary Stallings has always been one of those singers who makes you scratch your head and wonder why she isn’t more well known.  With a career that spans five decades, a still fabulous and nuanced vocal instrument and now with the great pianist Eric Reed as her musical partner, at 73, it’s not paradoxical to say that Ms. Stallings’ future is brighter than ever.  Don’t Look Back is the third album for the Stallings/Reed team and Reed by now compliments her the way that Tommy Flanagan complimented Ella.  The selection of somewhat familiar but not overexposed tunes is excellent and the intimate performances from Stallings and Reed’s trio are unhurried and flawlessly executed.

Flip the Script – Orrin Evans (Posi-Tone)

orrin evans

Orrin Evans is not only prolific; he’s damn good as well. Last year he gave us two well received albums (Captain Black Big Band and Freedom) and he’s back now with another extremely strong trio set. Like the aforementioned Tommy Flanagan, Evans is a pianist’s pianist. Whatever he plays flows effortlessly and he never seems to be phoning it in. On Flip The Script, Mr. Evans joins forces with the hard swinging bassist Ben Wolfe and the rock solid drummer Donald Evans to put together a tremendous set. These cats are deep in the pocket from first note to last. Then Evans wraps things up with a wonderful surprise, a solo piano version of the Soul Train theme “The Sound of Philadelphia”, slowed down to “last call at the bar” speed. It’s sweet icing on a beautiful cake.

Four MFs Playin’ Tunes – Branford Marsalis Quartet (Marsalis Music)

branford marsalis

One of the many beauties of this disc is that the title tells you all that you need to know.  For as much as I love Branford Marsalis, some of his recent works had drifted into the realm of blowing great sounding solos over chords, without discernible structure. It sounded impressive but sometimes left me cold. On this disc Branford, his longtime musical partners and new drummer Justin Faulkner are relaxed and having fun, with some great musical foundations to work with – “tunes”, if you will.  Branford on soprano and tenor is as impressive as ever (I’ve always considered him to be the most musically exciting of the Marsalis brothers) and he and Joey Calderazzo are by now, one musical mind. To hear them bump their way through Monk’s “Teo” is worth the price of admission all by itself. It’s back to basics and it’s all good.

Again, another ten selections will be included in the next post.  They include a few more unheralded singers making their presence known; a couple of formidable British born sax men, with different stylistic approaches and the other half of the first brother-sister duo to make our list.